"Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure" - the Sixth Doctor's redesigned costume


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I did this breakdown of the little-known redesigned stage version of Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor costume for dw-cosplay over on livejournal. Realizing some of the Classic Who folks around here might also be into it, I thought I'd crosspost it to the RPF. I realize a stage costume might be pushing the boundaries of on-topicness for around here, but as a really obscure (yet entirely official) take on an iconic TV costume I figure it's still worth paying attention to. Besides, I really love this outfit. :D So, here goes..


One costume which remains equal parts iconic and obscure is the redesigned stage version of the Sixth Doctor's costume, made for Colin Baker's run in the 1989 stage play "Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure." I'm a fan of Six's costume (yes, I'm one of those people) and I've always really liked this version of it, and have been trying to learn all I can about it. I thought I'd share what I've gathered here in a breakdown.

Please note that this post is long and image-heavy.


Various behind-the-scenes reasons have been given for the redesign of this costume from its original TV version. Some sources have suggested reasons of technical suitability for the stage; increased heat from stage-lighting as opposed to a television studio, and the physical action required by the Doctor in a stage production without stunt doubles, meant a more breatheable and freely-moving wardrobe would be required. Other sources, including Colin Baker's website, indicate that Colin himself suggested the aesthetic changes simply because he had never been overly fond of the original, and finally had his chance to improve upon the design. Whatever the reasons, various changes were made to the costume on multiple levels. New fabrics were used, notably incorporating purples and blues which would not have been usable on television due to the CSO (blue-screen) effects. Existing patterns were modified, some wardrobe pieces were replaced with entirely different ones, and other tweaks and additions were made.

The main problem for costume enthusiasts like us where this costume is concerned is that there seems to be almost no substantial evidence of it in circulation anymore. The known set of publicity photos of Colin associated with the play (viewable on Colin's site) were taken before Colin's stage costume was ready, so they only show him wearing pieces of his "Trial of a Time Lord"-era TV wardrobe (albeit in a slightly different combination to any worn on-screen.) No official videos or photos seem to have been taken of Colin's actual stage costume. Though the cast regularly posed for photographs with fans after performances, none of those seem to have made it out of scrapbooks and onto the Internet. The snapshot above, scanned in by me from a source I no longer remember (possibly a DWM issue?) and posted to the Internet sometime in the mid-late 1990s, has been the only image circulating online for years.

My searches led me to contact Rob Cope, Colin Baker's webmaster, who just so happens to have worked in theatre and toured with "The Ultimate Adventure" during Colin's run. Rob was kind enough to allow me to share this personal photo of him and Colin from that tour in this post, which shows some additional details in the costume not visible from the first photo. To my knowledge, this is the only other extant photograph online showing the costume.

Image © Rob Cope, reposted with permission.

Sadly, despite other props and costumes from "The Ultimate Adventure" finding their way into exhibitions and collections over the years, no clothing items from this costume are known to have survived. None of the known Doctor Who costume collectors, exhibitions, or auctions seem to have gotten hold of any clothing pieces from this costume. Rob Cope doesn't think Colin kept any of the play's wardrobe himself, and speculates that it may have been sold off with other theatrical relics to a fancy dress hire (costume rental) shop after Mark Furness, the play's producer, passed away.

I obtained an amateur video of one of Colin's performances, and have been able to take screenshots. This video was circulating on bootleg tapes in the convention scene throughout the 1990s, and the quality is about what one would expect of an Nth-generation VHS from 22 years ago. The colors are oversaturated due to the combination of colored stage lighting and degraded videotape, and the low resolution obliterates most fine details, but it still shows us a whole lot more than we knew before.

The fact remains that this breakdown will contain less hard data and more speculation than others here. Due to the circumstances, this costume remains very much a "best-guess" endeavor rather than one where any sort of pinpoint accuracy is available. The goal of this post is to fine-tune our best guesses.

When it comes to details such as fabric colors and checker/tartan patterns, we're at the mercy of having to interpret and compensate for incomplete source material. Unlike other costumes, there can really be no one "correct" take on any of this stuff with the current information. So, I'm totally open to adding more peoples' ideas of what the patterns might have looked like. If you're willing and able to get together your take on any of the patterns presented, perhaps even hi-res versions for things like Spoonflower, please feel free to help out! If you've any further data, theories, or reference material, just leave it in the comments or otherwise contact me and I'll get it added to the post proper.

So, after painstakingly researching all the available data, here's what we've got.


This guide assumes Six's original costume as a starting point, and will focus mainly on the aspects unique to this version. If you haven't already, please read honorarydoctor's original Six Breakdown before this one.



The shoes appear to be standard brown or reddish-brown leather derby shoes. They have rounded toes and no toe caps. The laces may be pale brown or beige. The soles are pale around the outer top edge, the bottom layer and heel are dark brown or black. These are standard low-top shoes rather than the ankle-boots of his TV costume. Spats are not worn with these shoes. Colin appears to have dark socks on.

The trousers are yellow with black ticking-style pinstripes. It appears that the stripes alternate between thin and thicker stripes; that might also be single and multiple pinstripes resulting in the same general effect in low-resolution. It's difficult to be sure.


A few possible compatible pinstripe patterns.

There are standard side pockets, used throughout the play both for storage and for Colin's famously Doctorish hands-in-pockets pose. It's impossible to be sure, but I think there may also be slash-style pockets in the rear; I think Colin may have his hands in them in the upper-right photo above.

It's not known if the high-waisted early-20th-century cut of the TV trousers has been replicated here; the waistband remains out of sight beneath the waistcoat. The trousers are certainly of a fuller, roomier cut than the TV ones; even when Colin sits, the fabric is not fully tight on his legs. They may just be a contemporary 1989 cut.

Braces/suspenders or a belt may be in use, judging solely by the fact that the waistband never dips below the waistcoat. The waistcoat is never opened or removed, so it remains unknown; you could go for the Five/Six question-mark braces as used on TV, or just use whatever's comfortable for you.


click to enlarge

The biggest stylistic departure from the TV costume is the shirt. The contemporary 1980s shirt is just about gone; what we have here is something much more interesting. The collar still seems basically 1980s contemporary, or possibly a drift back toward the 1970s as the collar points seem to have gotten larger to my eye. They are embellished with question marks as before, though the question marks themselves appear a bit larger as well with wider loops and a curvier shape compared to Six's TV ones.


My take on the question mark shape.

The most interesting change to this shirt is obviously the sleeves. The Doctor is now wearing voluminous, billowy, pirate-style sleeves which are printed or embroidered with their own pattern of question marks. It's difficult to be sure with these stills, but the question marks on the sleeves seem similar or identical to the ones on the collar. The sleeves end in snug wrists (buttons or elastic gathers are both possibilities) rimmed with wide frilled cuffs evocative of those worn by Jon Pertwee, who of course played his Doctor in this play during the first part of its run.

The shirt sleeves are long enough for the cuff frills to show past the coat cuffs when the coat is worn. Halfway through the show, the Doctor removes his coat and spends the rest of the show in shirtsleeves. These unique sleeves are, therefore, a major part of the costume if you're going to be removing your coat at all.

The red gingham-patterned placket (the strip around the collar and down the front button strip) of the TV shirt is never visible on this version. Based on the two snapshots, I would estimate that they are left plain white on this version; indeed, since the waistcoat is never removed and the tie stays in place, the torso portion of this shirt remains completely unknown. It may have some sort of tying closure like other pirate shirts, or a partial strip of buttons, or whatever else you might imagine. Whatever is there, though, is probably white by my guess.

You could shop around for pirate shirts (also known as poet shirts or poet blouses) or patterns anywhere such gear is sold for costumes, renaissance faires, goth wear, and other historical clothing enthusiasts; the difficult part would be adding the modern collar, as those shirts generally lace or button up to the breast or throat with no modern collar as such. To take things on from the other direction, you could buy a modern collared shirt and replace the sleeves with ones from an existing pirate shirt or new ones from a pattern.

The question marks can be done in embroidery, applique, or similar. I'd avoid fabric paint for this; it tends not to weather being wrinkled and squished around and stuffed into coat sleeves like this shirt would be. I'd also advise avoiding pens, markers, and the like unless you really trust the brand; even "indelible" ink will tend to run in the laundry as well as directly onto your skin/into your coat if you perspire or get rained upon.

In a pinch, since the waistcoat and necktie cover most of the torso, wearing a collarless pirate shirt over a modern collared shirt could work; this will however give you another layer to sweat in. Relatively cheap costume-quality pirate shirts are fairly easy to get hold of since the Johnny Depp pirate films brought that whole thing back. Vintage piratey stuff might be found secondhand, left over from some former New Romantic.

A simpler option, sans pirate sleeves, would be to just add the frilled cuffs to any white shirt off the shelf and thereby complete the look when the coat is worn. A further quick-and-easy option could be to shop for a woman's blouse with the collar points, frilled cuffs, and/or billowy sleeves; a good option for femme Doctors as well as men who don't get too hung up about about which side buttons over which.


click to enlarge

The waistcoat seems to be cut from a contemporary pattern similar to the "Trial" era TV ones, there are no coattails here. The design had been assumed by many to be horizontal stripes based on the first old snapshot, but with Rob Cope's snapshot and the video it becomes apparent that it's actually a checkered pattern of bold horizontal and subtle vertical stripes. It now seems apparent that the camera flash obviously used on the first snapshot washed out this detail, leading to one possibility that the vertical stripes are of a slightly shinier thread than the horizontal.

The snapshots and video suggest the pattern was made of mildly iridescent fabric, such as silk or satin, which therefore reflected the light in various odd ways. Add that to the stage-lighting, and basically the exact colors and check pattern are anyone's guess. My judgment is that they are basically using the color scheme of the rest of the costume; there appears to be grey/silver, pink, yellow, purple, red, and blue on a cream or white background, with the check pattern based on groups of threes. Here is my very rough estimation.


I winged this.

The back of the waistcoat is not visibly patterned; it appears to be plain shiny purple. The rear of the waistcoat is belted with a strip of the same purple material, though the type of closure used on it (tied, buckled, buttoned, velcroed, etc.) remains uncertain.

Six buttons are arranged in three groups of two with gaps between, identically to the "Trial" waistcoats. I'm confident that the buttons are pineapples. Pineapples are still a fairly popular shape for novelty buttons as they were in the 1980s, and ones like these are still readily available in many shops which carry such things. Plastic seems to be the most common, though they can also be found in enamel or even painted wood or metal. You'll probably have some different shapes to choose from, and can go with whichever looks best to you.


Current stock photos of pineapple buttons from a variety of random online button dealers.

The waistcoat has the two pockets for the watch-chain, as well as the special buttonhole for the chain to pass through between the second and third buttons from the bottom. The chain used is the shiny green metal version used on-screen in Season 22. The chain hangs noticeably lower than the plastic "Trial" ones tended to. The watch is never removed from the pockets in this show, therefore using false pockets and sewing, pinning, or otherwise securing the chain into place remains an option for a slightly simpler-to-make waistcoat.


See photos in SHIRT & WAISTCOAT sections above.

Unlike any of the Sixth Doctor's other neckties, the fabric used in this cravat seems to be without any polka-dots or other visible patterning. It looks to be just a flat fabric, apparently iridescent, of a medium cyan-blue color. Cut-wise, it seems quite like any of the "Trial" ties in pattern and drape, if perhaps slightly longer to my eye.


For the cat badge/brooch on the left lapel you have a distinct advantage over the TV costume, and to understand why you'll need some back-story.

During Colin Baker's original television tenure as the Doctor, fans noticed his Doctor's cat badges and began giving Colin new cat badges as gifts when sending fan mail, meeting him at personal appearances, and so on. Colin eventually amassed a collection of nearly 100 cat badges of various designs. During "The Ultimate Adventure" Colin decided to finally put his collection to practical use; he wore a different one of his cat badges for every performance of the play.

Master Doctor Who collector Richard Briggs, aka RichardWho, has managed to collect 12 of these stage-worn cat badges. He was kind enough to allow me to share his photo of them here.


Image © Richard Briggs, originally posted to richardwho.com, reposted here with permission.

Looking at these you've some idea of the wide range of badges Colin used. You can try to find a match to any of these particular cats, or just find any other cat you like which might look at home among them. You can pin any cat badge you like to this costume and be canonical as can be.



One entirely new addition to Six's wardrobe is this handkerchief. It's a voluminous, billowy hanky apparently bright red-orange in color. (It looks orange on video, but in Rob Cope's snapshot it looks like a red-orange not too far from the coat's red tartan.) It is not visibly patterned. When not in use it can always be seen stuffed into the Doctor's right coat pocket during the first half of the show, and trailing from his right trouser pocket after he leaves his coat in the TARDIS. The handkerchief is used for one important plot point in the show as the Doctor hides a recording device in it, and is used for other random bits of stage business such as the Doctor mopping his brow or the subservient alien Zog using it to polish random things.



Colin wore a noticeably different hairstyle during this play. The back and sides were shorter as in early Season 22, while the top was longer, puffed-out, and reminiscent of his "Trial"-era curls. This gives you additional options when styling your own hair or sourcing a wig; it's up to you if you want to emulate this hairstyle or stick with the traditional Six options.


click to enlarge

I think I've held off on talking about the most interesting piece of the costume for long enough. :) The original coat has been known to drive fans and costumers a bit doolally, but this version might be just a bit easier on the brain.

I must point you back toward the original Six breakdown for the basic info, pattern source suggestions, and so on. There was also this excellent guide to the fabric panels on the original coat by corvus1970, who was kind enough to release his artwork freely with blanket permission to tweak. This turned out to be a real timesaver; my illustrations were made with Corvus' as a base.

click to enlarge

Diagram of which panel goes where on this coat, with approximate tartans.

Since the tartans are virtually impossible to figure out at this resolution, I've put together my best guesses for illustration purposes. They're not definitive at all, consider them a rough guide to start you looking for fabric you like which could also be close. If you have other ideas about the patterns to share, please add them in the comments!

Here I'll point out the main design differences of the coat beyond the fabric changes:

* In addition to the piping which was on the original coat's pocket flaps, there is now also piping along the outer edge of the collar, on the inner edges of the cuffs, and along the edge of the brace between the two back buttons. This seems like it might be the same fabric as the cravat; it's certainly a close shade and reacts very similarly to the light in photos.

* The front of the coat and sleeves are symmetrical; no more mismatched left/right sides until you get to the back panels.

* The outer sleeve panels are made of what appears to be a dark purple velvet-type fabric.

* The lapels are made of a purple fabric with subtle stripes running vertically; these may be embroidered or applique stripes of the same shade of purple, or they may simply be a heavy upholstery-type fabric with a visible texture woven into it. My personal judgement is leaning toward the latter.
** UPDATE: From master costumer Steven Ricks via email: "The fabric used for the lapels of the coat, I believe, is a fabric called watermarked silk or taffeta. It is a silk with a woven sort of iridescence, which looks a bit like woodgrain. It changes and morphs with the light and the angle you view it at, but often has distinct vertical lines." Looking at some photos of such fabric, I'm now inclined to agree with Steven. It'd certainly explain why the fabric is particularly reflective in the stage lights.

* Where the original coat's lapels droop down slightly from where they join the collar, creating an obtuse angle along the top, these lapels maintain the straight line across. This also results in a tighter angle for the top lapel points.


* The pair of braced buttons on the rear of the coat seem pink in some closeups on video, but that could be color distortion so it's your call. The panel of dark fabric containing a column of applique patches which runs from that brace down the center line of the TV coat's skirt has been left out of this pattern; instead, a simple split runs from the brace down between the rear central panels and separates the two coat-tails.

I'd advise costumers crafting or commissioning this coat to take one extra thing into consideration; if you're doing the pirate sleeves on the shirt, keep that in mind as you measure out the coat sleeves. You may want a little extra space for all that fabric to get stuffed into.

For those looking to purchase rather than make The Coat, our old eBay friends honestdragonchina have been doing an "Ultimate Adventure" costume for a number of years. As with their TV!Six gear, the waistcoat, trousers, and cravat have their inaccuracies, and the shirt is the same as their TV!Six one. However, they seem to have done a remarkable job on the coat itself. Rob Cope has one of honestdragonchina's costumes; he tells me it was a purchase to remind him of his time working with the show. (Dig that; it's good enough for someone who was there!) Additionally, I've seen a couple of folks wear that coat wonderfully in photos and videos, and it does look great on a good cosplayer. So, based on others' results I would certainly consider honestdragonchina'a coat quite a viable option for anyone who doesn't want to deal with making one from scratch. Although they often only have the complete Doctor Who costumes listed, they have been known to negotiate a fair markdown to just make the coat if you send them a message and ask.


Rob Cope poses in his honestdragonchina costume, with a familiar well-dressed companion. Photos © Rob Cope, reposted with permission.

At this point I simply must mention colley and his awesome cosplaying videos; he wears the honestdragonchina coat and makes an entirely brilliant Doctor. Click here for Colley's video exploits as Ultimate Adventure Six!

Apart from the standard caveats regarding the Chinese costume suppliers (fabric choices being limited to the closest match they can get hold of in their ever-changing local market, a long production cycle, shipping hassle, etc.) it should be noted that their version of this coat was made based solely on that first snapshot; they had to wing it for the back, and other areas that photo didn't show. So, the honestdragonchina coat obviously doesn't reflect the new information presented in this breakdown. Regardless, it's still definitely recognizable as a Six coat. Additionally, since every order is made custom, you might conceivably now be able to get them to apply the lessons learned in this breakdown to your purchase. It couldn't hurt to contact them and ask.

It should be noted that honestdragonchina have scaled back on how blatantly they promote their Doctor Who gear in general; their Fifth Doctor outfit which IIRC used to be labeled clearly as a "Doctor Who Peter Davison Costume" is as of this writing being sold under the generic title "Halleween Coat Pants Outwear Brown Cosplay Costume Man." The entire "Doctor Who" section of their online store has far less in listed stock than it used to, and has been retitled "Doctor who (contact seller !)" My guess is they caught the inevitable BBC complaint; it seems honestdragonchina will still do the costumes for you, but you'll just have to send them a message first to work out the details privately. "Business is business," as they say.

One final option might be to eschew The Coat and just do the rest of the costume. It might be sacriligious to some Six fans to not do the coat, but since the Doctor did spend half the play coatless it is canonically sound.


There were a few props used by the Doctor in this story, which could make neat additions to any "Ultimate Adventure" Six costume.


1. The Doctor's recording device seems to be a generic black and/or silver box; no further detail is visible on video. Any small plain-looking portable electronic voice recorder or microcassette recorder would do. It'd also be the rare sort of prop gadget which actually does in real life what it did in the story.

2-5. In order to ingratiate himself to an organized crime leader, the Doctor puts on a disguise and masquerades as a wicked criminal mercenary known as... erm, "the Doctor." After digging through a trunk of clothes (and snarking at Three's shirt and Four's hat and scarf) he settles upon a clever disguise... consisting entirely of a black domino mask and a tricorne hat with brown, gold, or yellow piping. (Terrance Dicks what were you even doing.)

6-7. This pendant is twirled in the air at one point to create a time tunnel using temporal energy collected from the TARDIS, and used at another point to hypnotize someone in the usual back-and-forth dangling manner. It's entirely unknown what it may have looked like when it wasn't on scratchy video, though it is identified in dialogue as a crystal. So, use any crystal pendant on any chain you like.

8. The Doctor uses a small voice modulator to sound like a Dalek at one point, in order to fool a human who has been conditioned to obey the Daleks. It may be the same prop as the voice recorder, but I cannot be certain as the device remains hidden in his hand from the video camera's point of view. It strikes me that you can now buy Dalek voice-changing toys tied in to the new series; the electronics from one of those would be easy to put into a small handheld device and once again give you a prop that actually does what it did in the story.

9. This metal egg is described as a "Dalekanium Neutron Bomb." Any fine physical details the metal egg may have exhibited remain unknown, but if you're into somehow adding sound effects to your prop the bomb is armed with a tap on its top and ticks menacingly like a loud clock.


Alternatives and substitutes for most of this costume remain basically the same as those in the original TV costume's breakdown. Since it's generally accepted that if this play fits into continuity anywhere at all it fits post-Trial (sometime after the Sixth Doctor learned how to change his original outfit) the Doctor was swapping around different ties and waistcoats anyway, and even making more drastic wardrobe changes if your personal canon includes the iconoclastic Blue!Six. Had there been a hypothetical further Sixth Doctor stage play following on from this one, this same costume might have been used with any number of new variations. (In fact a sequel to the play did appear in prose, in the short story "Face Value" from the BBC collection "Short Trips and Side Steps" which deliberately played fast and loose with accepted "canon.")

So, rather than exactly copying the gear used on-stage to the last stitch - which is not actually possible since there is just so much we still don't know - you can use whatever bits and pieces you can find consistent with the spirit of the thing. Part of the particular fun of this version of the costume is that even those looking to make as direct a replica a possible have far more leeway than with other costumes; the uncertainty can be seen as an opportunity to fill the knowledge gaps with whatever looks and feels best to you without worrying too much about "inaccuracy." Get the general idea of everything in place to your satisfaction and you'll be entirely ready to go.

That's about all there is to say at this point about the "Ultimate Adventure" Six costume. Once again, many thanks to Rob Cope and Richard Briggs for generously sharing their photos and info with us.

If you have further facts, theories, reference material, or advice to add to this, please leave it in the comments or get in touch!
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Very nicely detailed, I have a replica of the original coat. the stage outfit is interesting, I would try the blue coat from Real Time as an alternate costume.
Resurrecting an old thread here but there are a few other pictures of the outfit not mentioned in this forum, unfortunately they’re all monochrome but I did this post about them a while back:

Resurrecting an old thread here but there are a few other pictures of the outfit not mentioned in this forum, unfortunately they’re all monochrome but I did this post about them a while back:

Awesome!! I am really excited every time some new scrap of info comes out about this costume, and these are amazing shots. Thanks for sharing them!

Really nice look at the waistcoat pattern, as well.
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